SALT LAKE CITY – In 2015, Utah launched the “Use Only as Directed” campaign to help educate people and fight the opioid epidemic in Utah. Now renamed “Know Your Script”, the impacts of the multi-year initiative are proving fruitful.
In August 2017, Intermountain Healthcare implemented an opioid reduction plan as part of the statewide initiative. So far, almost 11 million fewer opioid tablets have been prescribed by Intermountain.
Last year, Intermountain launched an opioid-free surgery program using nerve blockers instead of opioids.
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Patients who can participate in this type of surgery feel better sooner and get home faster, said Will Shakespeare, MD, medical director of surgeries and director of anesthesiology for Intermountain.
“One of the biggest risks we have when having surgery is not that the surgery does not have the expected benefit on the shoulder or the gallbladder, the biggest risk is that ‘At 90 days, a patient who was not on opioids before is taking opioids, ”he said.
Jason Zeeman became addicted to opioids after injuring his back about 20 years ago. Overcoming his addiction was not easy, he said.
“No amount of opioids has ever made me feel good. No matter how much I received, it never filled the void I had created, ”he said.
When he found out he needed surgery, he was excited to learn an option to do so without opioids.
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“I had made the decision when I got there that I wasn’t even going to put them in my hands,” he said, “I kind of told the doctor, I said, if you want to give me opioids, give me your address and I’ll come and steal from you after you give them to me because that’s where I’m going.
This type of surgery doesn’t work for all surgeries, Dr. Shakespeare said. Finding opioid-free ways to control pain continues to be a struggle. However, thanks to the “Know Your Script” initiative, Intermountain has seen a 40% reduction in acute opioid prescriptions and a 31% reduction in chronic opioid prescriptions, according to the hospital system.
“One of the things I have seen that has been the most beneficial is that there is more than one good prescription sizing for patients,” Dr. Shakespeare said.
It takes a village to make a difference, said Kristy Jones, senior mental wellness consultant at Community Health for Intermountain Healthcare.
Between 2015 and 2019, there was a drop in the number of prescription overdose deaths in Utah, the Department of Health reports.
“We have tried to implement strategies that are both educational, by modifying our catalog of prescription orders to reduce the amount of opioid pills and the amount of opioid prescriptions that our providers write and to really to help them, to help their patients to really express themselves and to withdraw. ,” she said.
Through the educational initiative, people are learning to express themselves, to withdraw and to throw, Jones said.
“We’ve really worked on teaching people to ask their doctors for an opioid prescription,” she said.
There are dozens of drop boxes for people to properly dispose of unused prescriptions at Intermountain facilities. Since 2015, more than 45,000 pounds of drugs have been deposited, according to Intermountain.
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“Less opioids for the patient means less is left and ends up in medicine cabinets that end up being used by my grandchildren or friends or those who may use them for the sake of health. diversion, ”said Dr. Shakespeare.
It’s nice to see how seriously health officials are starting to take the opioid epidemic, Zeeman said. It would have been nice if they knew 20 years ago, what they know now, he said.
“I can understand that they are looking for a different way to help people like me or younger people who have never had an opioid addiction never have to go through this,” he said.
There’s still a lot of work to be done, Jones said.
“I think the biggest limitation is the difficulty for people who are currently addicted to find, to want to undergo treatment, and then, when they want to undergo treatment, to have accessible and affordable treatment that meets their needs,” she declared.
For a list of prescription drop boxes, click here.
For a list of resources for people with substance abuse in Utah, click here
You can also call the Utah 24/7 Crisis Line at (800)273-8255 or 2-1-1.